|St Joseph the Worker|
The feast of Saint Joseph the Worker is not a mere Catholic copying of the Communist First of May – any more than Christmas is a mere copy of the pagan feast of Saturnalia. The dates are taken over, for obvious reasons; but the content is radically different.
The Christian view of work is the opposite of the materialist view. A worker such as St Joseph is not a mere lump of labour – “1.00 human work units.” He is a person. He is created in God’s own image, and just as creation is an activity of God, so creation is an activity of the worker. The work we do echoes the glorious work that God has done. It may not be wasted; or abused; or improperly paid; or directed to wrong or pointless ends. To do any of these things is not oppression, it is sacrilege. The glory of the present economic system is when it gives so many, of whatever class, the chance to build and create something worthwhile, whether from their own resources, or in collaboration with others, or by attracting investment from others. But its shame is when that does not happen: when people are coerced, by greed or by poverty, into being “lumps of labour.” Whether the labour is arduous or not makes no difference; whether it is richly paid or not makes no difference.
Because she must combat the anti-humanist Communist heresy the Church is sometimes thought to be on the side of capital. Reading the successive Papal encyclicals on labour and society, from Rerum Novarum (1891) onwards, will soon dispel that illusion. The enemies of the Church have no reason to read them; all too often we feel too comfortable in our present economic state and refrain from reading them also.